By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Sarah Appold’s favorite pitch really depends on the day – and the various options she’s honed during a record-setting career at Saginaw Valley Lutheran.
Of course, there is the old stand-by fastball. The Chargers’ senior also can go change-up. She has a dangerous drop ball. But if she absolutely needs a swing and a miss, it’s got to be the rise.
“I just like the way I can kinda play games with it,” Appold said.
She’s won more than most seniors in Michigan this school year.
Appold is, without question, one of the most impressive all-around athletes in the state's class of 2012. A Second Half High 5 recipient this week, she made the Class C all-state second team in volleyball during the fall and then The Associated Press’ Class C all-state basketball team in the winter.
But softball has always been her number one – Appold holds multiple strikeout records at Valley Lutheran and has signed to pitch next for Saginaw Valley State.
“I played a lot of first base (growing up). But I liked being in control, playing all the time,” Appold said of pitching. “I like being able to be part of every single play. It’s just like playing a game every single time someone is up to bat.”
A decade ago, when second-grader Sarah decided she wanted to give pitching a try, her dad Randy – himself a fastpitch thrower – built her a pitching mound in the backyard.
It clearly got some use.
She set the Chargers’ single-season strikeout record of 272 as a sophomore – made more impressive by the fact she’s shared pitching duties all of her four varsity seasons and threw only 138 innings that season. She’s in the MHSAA record book three times for striking out at least 14 batters in one game, with her 15 in a 2010 contest tied for fifth on the list.
But the number that really pops is the school record she set last season for strikeouts per inning – 2.06.
This spring she’s faced 57 batters and struck out 36 in starting 2-0. She hasn’t given up an earned run and has allowed just five hits and walked four. Opponents are batting a mere .098 against her.
“Just being around her, and seeing her attitude, it’s hard to describe,” Valley Lutheran coach John Mueller said. “Because for all four years, watching her on the mound, she could strike somebody out or give up a hit, and you’d never see a change in her facial expression. She’ll get a couple of runners on base and it’s no big deal. She’s not so worried.”
He saw that confidence emerge especially last season. And her presence allows for her teammates – who together are ranked No. 5 in Division 3 – to remain confident even if they don’t make an offensive dent the first time through the line-up.
Appold also struck out 14 on Saturday as she and teammate Kelsey Schaus both threw no-hitters in a sweep of Flint Southwestern. Appold is joined by another four-year varsity player in Kara Englehardt among a group that Mueller said has shown exceptional work ethic across all sports over the last few years – and no doubt is working toward improving on last season’s finish in the Regional Final, a 7-5 loss to Sanford Meridian.
Appold also played four seasons of varsity volleyball and three on the basketball team. One more run would be a fitting end to an impressive softball career and incredible senior year as a whole.
“I guess I was a little shy coming in when I came in as a freshman. But I had juniors and seniors on the team who helped me settle down,” Appold said. “I definitely feel a lot older. And as you get older, there’s not a pressure, but a feeling of being almost done – and wanting to end the season winning the last game.”
Click for more on Appold and the rest of this week's High 5s.
PHOTOS: Saginaw Valley Lutheran Sarah Appold helped her team to last season's Division 3 Regional Final, playing both first base and pitching in the tournament.
Owosso’s Macy Irelan earned 11 entries in the MHSAA record book over her three-year varsity career that came to a close last spring, most notably with her 1,157 strikeouts despite the 2020 season being canceled due to COVID-19.
Irelan’s career strikeouts were the second-most in the state since the pitching distance was lengthened three feet in 2011. She finished 31-7 last spring with a 1.43 ERA and 414 strikeouts in 229 2/3 innings in earning the Miss Softball Award for pitching.
She also hit .551 with 21 doubles last season, and her 55 career doubles over 117 games and three seasons made that category career list. She’s continuing her career at Kent State.
See below for more recent additions to the softball record book:
Unionville-Sebewaing’s dominating run to the 2021 Division 4 championship was filled with seven record book-worthy highlights, including many near the top of all-time lists. In going 40-3, the Patriots tied their season record for wins for the second time. Their 502 runs scored ranked third all-time, with their 493 hits tied for ninth, their 114 doubles second, their 49 home runs also tied for ninth, their 431 RBI also second and their 503 strikeouts thrown ranking third. Senior Brynn Polega completed her career with 13 record book entries despite her junior season being canceled because of COVID-19; she added listings for 71 runs, 79 hits, a third-best 28 doubles, 11 homers, 70 RBI, four perfect games pitching and 365 strikeouts, among others. Then-junior Laci Harris made lists with 77 runs, 83 hits, 22 doubles, 14 homers and 78 RBI, while then-junior Macy Reinhardt was added for 78 runs and then-freshman Gabriella Crumm was added for 16 doubles. Polega, Harris and Reinhardt also posted entries for single-game accomplishments. Polega is playing at Northwood and Harris at Madonna.
Big Rapids set a school record for wins in 2021 in finishing 34-7, a run which included a number of accomplishments that reached the record book. The Cardinals scored 439 runs – tied for 12th on that list – and also as a team were added for 428 hits, 82 doubles and 363 RBI, which tied for 10th all-time. Marissa Warren made the individual hits list with 71, while Hanna Smith earned an entry with 20 doubles and Rylie Haist followed with 19. Josie Cornell was added with 40 walks drawn. Warren, Smith and Haist were added for single-game accomplishments as well, as was Madison Affer from a 2019 game. Haist, Smith and Cornell are seniors this school year, and Warren is a junior. Smith has signed with Ferris State.
A pair of Bad Axe standouts earned record book entries in 2021 with their work at the plate. Haley Newland made the single-season doubles list with 19, and Brooke Messing was added for seven RBI in a game that saw her hit a grand slam and three-run homer. Newland graduated last spring and Messing is a senior this school year.
Montrose then-freshman Lainey Cannon made two record book lists with her performance April 25 against Montrose. She hit three home runs to make the single-game list in that category, and also made the single-game RBI list with eight.
Capac then-sophomore Madalyn Roberson made the record book three times with her performance May 9 against Brown City. She hit two home runs in back-to-back at bats, both during the fifth inning, and also drove in six runs for the game.
Spring Lake standouts now fill the record book after the addition of 55 individual and 23 team entries dating back to the 2000 season. Among listings ranking highest in their respective categories were Madelyn Nelson’s 81 runs in 2018, which tied for seventh all-time; Nelson’s 250 career runs from 2015-18) that rank seventh and Lauren Hellman’s 249 career runs also from 2015-18 that rank eighth on that list; Nelson’s 84 hits in 2018 that are tied for 12th-most all-time and her 264 career hits that rank 11th, Leah Vaughan’s 26 doubles in 2019 that rank seventh, Evie Lorimer’s 16 triples in 2011 that are tied for eighth and her 37 career triples from 2010-12 that are ranked fourth, Vaughan’s 23 career times being hit by pitch from 2016-19 which rank second, and Lorimer’s 92 stolen bases in 2012 that rank second (with all 92 coming consecutively to tie for fifth on that list) and 183 career steals that rank 11th. As a team, Spring Lake in 2017 ranked seventh all-time with 501 hits over 42 games, fourth with 109 doubles and eighth with 34 triples. The 2018 team ranks 11th with 441 runs scored over 41 games, 10th with 497 hits and tied for ninth with 100 doubles. Valerie Alter, Linsey Paggeot, Jenna Core, Molly Poole, Alicia Mumby, Leah Anton, Ann Marie Galloway and Rachael Adams also earned individual entries. Nelson went on to play at Grand Valley State, Vaughan plays at Aquinas College, Lorimer played at Central Michigan, Alter played at Jacksonville University (Fla.), Poole plays at Cornerstone University and Mumby played at Lansing Community College. Core plays volleyball at Hope College.
Freeland’s offense earned five record book entries during the team’s 26-12 season in 2022, including for 412 runs scored, 442 hits, 78 doubles, 336 RBI and a .400 team batting average. Three individuals also earned entries – sophomore Addie Steffen for a 20-game hitting streak and seven RBI in a game, junior Evelynn Rybicki for six RBI in a game and freshman Brynn Jaime for getting hit by a pitch twice in the same inning.
Chloe Parker hit .604 last spring and made the records with 20 doubles over 33 games for Niles Brandywine. She’s a junior this school year.
A series of record book entries were added for past and present Zeeland West standouts. Carly Sleeman was added for 73 runs, 75 hits, 27 doubles and 12 home runs in 2021 as a sophomore, while Lily Brower was added for 72 runs, 17 triples and 11 homers, plus 38 doubles and 29 triples over a four-year varsity career. Sleeman’s 27 doubles are tied for fifth-most in one season, and Brower’s 17 triples are tied for fourth on that list. Haley Hoogenraad was added for 70 hits and 17 doubles as a junior in 2015, 19 doubles as a senior, and 49 doubles and 24 triples over her four-year career from 2013-16. Kenzie Siersma was added for 17 doubles in 2017 and 54 over her career from 2016-19, while Courtney Sleeman made the season home runs list with 15 in 2015 and Sarah VanValkenburg made the career RBI list with 152 from 2014-17. Emily Brands was added for hitting consecutive home runs in the same inning, May 7 against Reese; she graduated this spring. Hoogenraad went on to play at University of Michigan, Courtney Sleeman played at Western Michigan, Siersma plays at West Virginia Tech, Brower played last season at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and Carly Sleeman has signed with Central Michigan.
PHOTO Owosso’s Macy Irelan unloads a pitch during the 2021 Division 2 Final.